COMING at us soon is a new stage show about the New York Yankees. The story of a former choirboy turned troublemaker. Confronting him, in 1973, a rescuer throws him into a holding pen in Yankee Stadium. Rescuer George Steinbrenner liked the kid, made him a batboy and he became the Boss’ right-hand man for 36 years. The Kid? Ray Negron. Today he’s a Yankees exec who advises on community relations.
Burt Reynolds a true movie Star and nice man.
In 1982 I got to work in my first movie. It was call Blue Skies Again. Warner Brothers produced it. It was a coming of age baseball comedy. It stared Harry Hamlin and I was actually a co-star in the film with Andy Garcia and Star Search heartthrob Joey Gian. (If you don’t believe me, you can look it up).
After that film my Florida agent, Dee Miller had me audition for a film call Smokey and the Bandit 2.
The part called for an African American actor. Since I had just played the part of Jerry Washburn, an African American, My agent thought I could get away with it in this film also. What she forgot was that my skills as a ball player along with my Afro haircut pushed me over the edge.
The minute that I walked into the Miami studio, the first thing out of the casting directors mouth was ‘ your not really black, your Hispanic! One of the other persons in the room who was reading my actor resume yelled out ‘ Do you know Dick Howser? I was shocked because who would know Dick Howser other than a true baseball person that knew Howser and his time as a great Yankees coach.
Well to my surprise it was Burt Reynolds the star of this project and so many great films. Reynolds told me that Howser and he were very good friends and went to school together at Florida State in Tallahasee.
He said unfortunately your not right for this part but let’s do the test anyway just in case something else comes up.
Just that alone made my day. After the screen test was over I thanked Burt Reynolds for the opportunity and he said, I want to thank you because now I can tell Dick Howser that I had one of his Yankee people test for me. He said that I gave him ammunition to pull some pranks on Howser.
I guess he did because every time I saw Dick Howser after that he would say, Ray you ain’t no actor. Also that I made him look bad in front of Burt Reynolds then he would laugh.
I would never see Burt Reynolds again however that one experience with a true giant in the film business who was also so very sweet to me that day is something that I never forgot.
Dick Howser was always very proud of his friendship with Burt Reynolds and loved talking about what a wonderful person Burt Reynolds was. I only had 10 minutes with the man. Those 10 minutes told me that Dick Howser was telling it like it was about his friend Burt Reynolds.
Thanks for sharing your talents with all of us Mr Reynolds.
Rest In Peace.
Bird Flies High in Class
How do you measure a N.Y. Yankee?
That’s a tough question because so many have failed the test. Not everyone that plays for the Yanks have the personality of a Bobby Murcer or a Bernie Williams or a Lou Gehrig. Those are giant shoes to fill.
The other day I was watching the post game show. This was a game after the new first baseman Luke Voit had homered and at the end of the game they brought in Greg Bird to pinch hit with the bases loaded. He hit a ball that was caught at the wall and the game was over.
When it came time to talk to the media Bird was there with his head held hi. He told them that he was disappointed and would just keep swinging.
There was one writer in particular that kept asking Bird how did it feel to see Voit doing so well playing his position. As a matter of fact the writer kept asking the same question in five different ways. To his credit Bird kept his cool and didn’t give the writer what he he was looking for. Bird showed tremendous class and never showed the writer that he was upset in any way.
When he told the writers that he was really enjoying the performance that Voit put on and all he wants is to win as a Yankee. I once heard Bobby Murcer say the same thing when he was traded back to the Yankees in 1979. The Boss told Bobby that he would be a backup player on the team and Bobby told him that he was just happy to be there to help the Yankees win in any way possible. What I loved about that was that I knew that Bobby Murcer meant it.
What I loved about the Greg Bird incident was that I know he meant it to.
It’s hard to put it into words what a true Yankee is because there are so many facets to it. However getting to know Bird the last couple of years I can honestly say that as a person, he is on his way to being a great Yankee.
Thanks for Your Service Ralph Cavalieri
Your probably asking yourself who is Ralph Cavalieri? Well for your information Ralph is a hero from World War Two. He has won several distinguished medals for his efforts in that horrible war and has been a great example to any one that has known him. At the age of 92 he knows more about the Yankees than anyone I know dating back to 1939 to present day. I can say that I saw Mickey Mantle play. Well he can top me because he saw Lou Gehrig play. I saw Mickey’s farewell speech, well he saw Gehrig’s and Babe Ruth’s speech.
A friend of mine told me that Ralph wanted to have coffee with me. When I saw this man’s resume, I couldn’t wait to meet him. I went to his home for coffee and ended up staying for three hours. His story about the war was incredible and his story of his love for the Yankees was just fascinating. Ralph tried on my World Series ring and told me that it was a great thrill. Can you believe that, my ring. It’s people like Ralph and some of the people that I meet in my travels that continue to tell me why I’m still in love with this storied organization.
Thank you Ralph for all your service.
Lucas Spina is a 4 year old boy with hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy. He has had 12 brain operations within the last 12 months. His momma, Danielle wants awareness in the pediatric community because of the underfunding and also because of the fact that there is no cure.
Lucas on the other hand is just happy to be at Yankee Stadium visiting his hero’s. The first Yankee to visit him was the young rookie Miguel Andujar.
When Andujar noticed one of the scars on Lucas head, you could tell that he was visibly touched.
He asked me what was the situation and after I explained he said that his love was with Lucas.
Through the rain and the help of all the Yankee good hearts Lucas and his mom had a day that they can always look back on and the pictures to prove it.
NICHOLAS NEVER FORGOTTEN
Nicholas Pedone Jr was seven years old when we lost him to a cancer known as neuroblastoma.
This week would of been his 12 th birthday. His parents Nick and Josephine told me that he was a gigantic Yankee fan and he loved Derek Jeter. His mom said that in her heart, little Nick would of transferred over to Aaron Judge now that Jeter was retired. My long time friend , Hall of fame artist John Pennisi told me about the Pedones and ask if it was possible for them to receive a special painting that he did in honor of their son. With the help of the wonderful Gleyber Torres and Coach Marcus Tymes the Pedones were totally surprised on little Nicks birthday with the portrait. What made it even better was that later in the evening Gleyber homered and dedicated it to the Pedone family.
I guess you can call it Yankee Magic.
Gleyber and Andujar understand their roles
Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar were two rookies that going into spring training were not supposed to make the Yankees. However due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control have become two of the biggest baseball stars in New York. With that fame and success on the field they continue to understand the importance in being a Yankee off the field. They understand before games , the importance in extending their hands to so many of the young people that come early to the park. They also have gotten to understand that some of these kids have medical issues and need a little extra sympathy and love. I can honestly say that I’m happy for these two young men and hope that they continue to make the people of New York proud. At the same time New York is very lucky to have them.
George Steinbrenner once said to me that since I was given a chance at doing good things with my life, all he expected back was that I always help thy fellow man.
A few years later through my relationship with the Boss and Yanks manager Billy Martin, I would get to meet the great Frank Sinatra, both at Yankee Stadium and at the great Italian restaurant, Patsys.
In the process of several conversations, Mr Sinatra mentioned how important it was to always give young people opportunities and hope. “Always make young people feel like there isn’t anything that they couldn’t do. Let them always have High Hopes!”
He said that he once shot a segment of a show with a bunch of little kids and they sang his own song, High Hopes. What that moment meant to those kids and their parents was something that meant the world to him and years later he would run into some of those kids and they would tell him the impact that the opportunity had on their lives. It is something that I would never forget because Mr Steinbrenner and Billy were exactly the same way.
A couple of weeks ago I went to the funeral of a young man that had been shot due to gang violence. His mom had told me that had she had the money for a baseball league fee that her son probably would still be alive.
And then just recently got a call from a friend of mine who told me about a young boy that was depressed because his family was not able to register him in youth baseball due to financial restraints. They were hoping that maybe through the magic of the Yankees this boys spirits and aspirations could be brought to another level. For over an hour on Tuesday morning I was stressing out over how I could make this dream come true. These are the dog days of the baseball season and the last thing that I wanted to do was to bother my supervisor, team President, Randy Levine.
After thinking it out carefully, I remembered what Mr Steinbrenner used to say to me. “If you think that you need to do something because it can help make things better than do it, but be willing to take the beating if it fails.”
So, I decided to call Mr Levine for help. I could tell that he was extremely busy but he asked about the situation and said that he would take care of it.
Let me just say that with the great assistance of Randy Levine and other Stadium personnel, some of the players from both the Yankees and White Sox and of course my great friends the Marrero family, a young boy from the tough streets of the Bronx has HIGH HOPES again. Young Nelson Santiago was just overwhelmed with the attention and couldn’t believe that Randy Levine and the New York Yankees would care about some Spanish kid from the Bronx.
Well Nelson, I can honestly say that they do and they have for a very long time.
I personally know that for a fact.
I was one of those Spanish kids from the Bronx.
Special thanks to The Boss, Billy and Mr Sinatra!
It wasn’t a funeral , it was a party and a celebration of life. There wasn’t enough time in the day because there were just so many people that wanted to show thier love and respect to thier surf king Charlie Bunger. People came from as far as Hawaii to honor this terrific individual who exemplified to me how to properly live life.
There were politicians, film actors , stage and film producers , people just from all walks of life who had one thing in mind , to honor a really nice man.
The party started at Boyd Spencer Funeral Home where the line to get in at 2 pm was almost immediate. I couldn’t give you an exact number of people there. I can only say that it was truly wall to wall.
There was music and cookies and drinks. That’s how Charlie wanted it. For me the funniest quote of the day was when an attorney friend of ours walked in and he said that he didn’t know he was attending a Beach Boys concert. Most people were dressed in flowered shirts and shorts. Most people had flowered lays around thier necks and most of the conversation centered around the fun and escapades of this life loving person.
After the afternoon session ended they took Mr Bunger to his home in West Gilgo Beach for a little party at the beach. Every one followed the hurst to the West Gilgo Inn for a few beers and more celebration of life. There were even more people there and we all started chanting Charlie Bunger, Charlie Bunger. Tons of pictures were taken and when we drove by his home there were surfers there holding their surf boards in the air as the long black hurst drove through them.
When we got back to the funeral home, the lines were already forming.
The evening session was even more crazier. You could of used double the space. I failed to mention that surf boards were lined against the walls and instead of signing the book as you walk in people got to sign the surf boards. One of the surf boards was even signed by President Trump.
I unfortunately have attended many funerals in my life. I must say that l have never attended a funeral like this and this was the opinion of most there. I don’t know how many people say that this is how I want to go out. Well this is how Charlie wanted it and I have to give his wife Janet and his family credit for allowing Charlie to have one final dream come true.
This was who Charlie was. Even in death he wanted everyone else to have a great time.
I didn’t know it was possible for people to have a great time at a funeral, but leave it to good old Charlie to make that happen. Charlie even picked one final song that his wife and daughters and family danced to, Some where over the Rainbow.
Charlie Bunger financially was not a wealthy man but at one point during her speech his daughter Theresa asked by a show of hands how many people at one point or another had worked for Charlie and the number was staggering. Some of these people are very wealthy and credit Charlie for giving them a foundation in life. Charlie was very proud of being a mentor to so many of these kids. I guess that made him a very rich man.
WOW his dream really did come true!
Today I wake up on the 4th of July and the first thing in my mind is naturally being a Yankee, that it’s George Steinbrenner’s birthday.
He would of been 88 years old. He is missed by so many. I can only imagine what his family feels. People that he didn’t even know in the Bronx were always touched by his surprise kind gestures. (That’s a story for another day).
I think of my father in law Charlie Bunger, the king of surfing. We lost Charlie on Monday because of Cancer. He died a multi millionaire not in money but in heart and soul.
I think of Billy Martin who to me was the best manager ever. This was without all the mathematical techniques that are used today. For me personally Billy thought me that it was ok to fight back. He was the first Yankee to tell me that he loved me.
I think of Thurman Munson and Bobby Murcer. They were like brothers and they made this Puerto Rican boy always feel like a part of their family.
I think of my dear pal John Szponar who we lost last week. John was our Community director in Tampa. John had to deal with the most powerful owner in the history of sports (Mr. Steinbrenner). The Boss always had his hands in the community and when he had to sound off because he never felt like he did enough, John had to take the brunt of it. Like I said in the past he took it with dignity and always loved the Boss.
I think of my mom and step dad. They were born with two strikes against them but as long as they had a bat in their hands they always had a chance to get a hit, in more ways than one.
They are all gone now and I miss them so very much. It took everyone of these people and more to mold me into the person I am today.
The one thing that they all truly had in common was that they were so damn proud to be an American!
I am eternally grateful to them for imbedding that into my brain.
No matter how bad you may think these streets are(and they are) This is still the greatest country in the world.
Happy Birthday America, and the home of the brave!
By Joe McDonald
Ray Negron’s “Bayboy: A Yankee Miracle” debuted yesterday at the Argyle Theater in Babylon. The one-show, sold-out, engagement could have been called a test for a larger run later on.
Sure, there were some mistakes and some tightening up needs to be done. That was to be expected, but it’s safe to say, Negron has something here. “Batboy” is a very interesting lookback to the Yankees of the 1970s, when he served as batboy for George Steinbrenner.
The play is broken into a number vignettes about the top stories of the 1970s Yankees with Reggie, Billy, George and Thurman Munson taking center stage. Joseph Gian was exceptionally good as Munson along with Denise Cormio, who played his wife Diana.
Negron was narrator of the event, opening and closing it as a town hall event and then introducing each segment. The Yankees are seen though his eyes, how they unfolded for a youngster in his 20s, who was thrusted into stardom with the rest of the team.
Because of Negron’s stature, there were a few notable cameos. Ciaran Sheehan, from “Phantom of the Opera,” played Bobby Murcer and former Yankee centerfielder Mickey Rivers, played the younger version of himself.
It was an enjoyable few hours on a Sunday afternoon, but again it was a work in progress and ultimately further showings in other venues will tighten up the hiccups in this first version.
The play is a must for all Yankee fans, baseball fans or those who want to be entertained. Hopefully there will be a longer engagement in the near future.
By Joe McDonald
Ray Negron’s “Batboy: A Yankee Miracle” premieres Sunday at the Argyle Theater in Babylon and he is going to have some star power behind it.
Ciaran Sheehan, famous for Phantom of the Opera, will be playing Bobby Murcer in the play.
“As a Yankee fan, it’s an honor to play Bobby Murcer, who was one of my idols,” Sheehan said.
Dublin born Sheehan is an acclaimed actor, singer, voice healer whose performances have been said to warm the heart and touch the soul. There is an amazing quality to his voice and his ability to capture an audience is nothing short of remarkable. Sheehan has many professional accomplishments to his credit, most notably playing the role of The Phantom in “The Phantom of The Opera” for over 1,000 performances on Broadway and in Toronto. But perhaps of more importance than his accomplishments is his sincere desire to use his incredible talents to inspire others to look within themselves to discover their own inner beauty.
The play will open at 2 pm on Sunday June 24, 2018 and tickets are on sale at the box office or online.
Charllie Bunger, the world renown King of surfing, is in critical condition at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Long Island. Charlie has been in remission from lymphoma, a cancer of the blood for the past three years. Sunday he somehow ruptured his spleen and had to go in for emergency surgery. He lost almost five liters of blood, which is almost unheard of. If you know Charlie Bunger at all then you know why he is still alive. Charlie is a lion on a surf board and the true heart and soul of the Bunger Surf and Sports shop in Babylon Village. Next to Plessers Electronics, the oldest business in Babylon Village.
The Surfing community worldwide has been calling texting and more importantly praying for Charlie Bunger.
Some people think that I have a special contact in my prayers to God, well I don’t. However if I did in some way then I’m gonna use up a few prayers to ask God to let us keep
Charllie around for a little while longer. This world is definitely not ready to be without him.
Charlie is a member of the International Surfing Hall of Fame and has proudly represented all fans of surfing in a wonderful and dignified way for over fifty years.
A long time Yankee fan, my father in law actually caught national attention when he dove onto the sacred old Yankee Stadium field chasing a foul ball during the playoffs in 2002.
Get well soon King!
Hank Swings for Kids.
Hank Steinbrenner received an award from Bronx and Brooklyn youth organizations including Hanks Yanks in the Bronx and Quebradilla little league in Brooklyn. Ray Aguila, President of Puerto Rico USA Imports says that when you have someone the magnitude of Mr Steinbrenner behind you it gives our children incredible hope for a bright future and our parents can’t thank him enough for being behind our children.
Carlos Feliciano Who for the last 17 years has served as the President of the Quebradilla little league says that Mr Steinbrenner’s spiritual support means a great deal for the little league but it also means a great deal for the Bushwick community as well.
Ray Aguila who was one of the first responders in Puerto Rico during the hurricane and feed thousands thru his company (Puerto Rico USA Imports) has been supporting many City little leagues for the last 25 years. This coming Saturday will mark the opening of the Littleleague season in New York. If you don’t have tickets to the Yankee game then go to your local Little league
program and root the future on.
Batboy Tales Most Valuable Player.
My MVP award is based on the week starting Monday and ending Sunday.
That being the case I have to give this weeks MVP to Gary Sanchez. I’m not a giant analytics guy at all. I’m as old school as you can get. It’s about winning and losing. No in betweens. This is something that
Thurman Munson use to preach in the clubhouse all the time. This past week Mr Sanchez hit two giant home runs to win big games for our Bronx Bombers. Not to mention the numerous runs batted in. The thing I love about Gary is that with all his success he still makes all his friends that have been there since the Dominican Republic,feel like they are a big part of it.
Don’t change my friend!
Nine wins in a row.
The Yankees won nine games in a row in a total team effort. Someone once said that hitting is contagious. Well another wise prophet once said that winning is contagious. Dellin Betances who has had early season problems on the mound has had a couple of very good outings during the winning streak. When asked by a friend what’s the difference between now and then he said that baseball is a mind game and confidence is the key to anything in life. That being said ,I agree with Dellin wholeheartedly and must add that with his ability if Dellin is right there is no telling how far this team can go.
Mariano Rivera Gets Another Save
Mariano Rivera was credited with another save when he appeared at the Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle church in Smithtown Long Island. He spoke the word of the lord in such a profound way that many people suffering from their own issues really found comfort in the delivery of his words. There were people of all walks of life there. One person in particular was a young man by the name of Nick Singh from Suffolk Community College. Nick has had many personal issues and has had moments where he just wasn’t happy. I’m not going to get into any of the problems that Nick shared with me. I will only say that even though there were hundreds of people there Mariano made Nick feel like he was the only person in the room. I asked Nick what was the most important message that he got from Mariano and Nick said that he must trust the word of the lord. Nick said it wasn’t the words ,it was how he held my hand and looked into my eyes. At that point I really trusted the word of the lord. Now more than ever I want to be able to help thy fellow man.
Good job Mariano.
Good bye David Nelson.
Former major league player, coach, broadcaster David Nelson passed away last week. David was a young 73. I first made contact with David and when he was the second baseman for the Billy Martin managed Texas Rangers and I was the Yankee batboy. Billy always said that David was always one of the true gentleman of baseball. Billy considered him a true people’s guy. Billy also said that David was considered one of his team leaders. When the Rangers came into New York I would always take ground balls during batting practice with Lenny Randle and Dave Nelson. On several occasions Billy Martin would actually hit us the ground balls and you can’t imagine how great that felt. I will never forget that before one game David asked me if I was the bat boy that day or the ballboy down the foul line (the bat boys took turns ). I told him I was ball boy that game. He told me that if I wanted to impress the scouts that would be there that day to position myself in the front part of the tarpaulin not the back. This way the foul balls hit in my direction would come at me quicker and scouts would see some form of my ability.
Well during that game in the second inning Chris Chambliss hit a foul ball down the right field line that I made a terrific back hand play. I actually got a nice ovation from the crowd and when I looked over to David Nelson at second base he gave me a nice smile and a tip of the cap. The following year I was drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Mr Nelson was one of the first to call me and congratulate me. If you didn’t know David Nelson than you missed out on one of the best people that Major League Baseball ever produced.